James Antle takes a look at John Hostettler, the former Indiana congressman and Iraq War opponent, who hopes to challenge the centrist Democrat Evan Bayh in this year’s Senate race. The race should be interesting, especially since Rep. Mike Pence, a pro-war Republican with national popularity, has declined to run, making Hostettler, at least for now, the apparent front-runner for the Republican nomination. Writes Antle:
There are reasons the National Republican Senatorial Committee preferred Pence to Hostettler. Bayh was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote in 2004; Hostettler lost his House seat, drawing just 39 percent, in 2006. Hostettler’s independence from the party line makes him unpredictable — he was one of just six Republicans in the House to vote against authorizing the war in Iraq — and his refusal to take political action committee money frequently causes him to fare poorly at fundraising. Bayh is sitting on a $12.7 million war chest.
But Hostettler also was given little chance to win when he took out established Democratic incumbent Frank McCloskey in 1994. Then a mechanical engineer with no political experience, Hostettler labeled McCloskey “Frank McClinton.” Although Republican at the presidential level, the district — nicknamed the “Bloody Eighth” for its competitive nature — frequently changed parties in the House. Hostettler nevertheless was able to hold on for six terms.
Some of the problems that have plagued Hostettler in the past may not be an issue this year. His Iraq war vote — perhaps an unspoken reason some Republican hawks were so interested in finding a different challenger for Bayh — could help his fundraising through Ron Paul-style “money bombs.” Hostettler’s campaign is already looking closely at Rand Paul’s surprisingly successful effort in Kentucky. And while Connecticut candidate Peter Schiff hasn’t fared as well in the polls, he has done well at raising money from like-minded donors.
Like the younger Paul but unlike Schiff, Hostettler has deep ties to the more mainstream parts of the conservative movement: politically active evangelicals, people concerned about illegal immigration, pro-lifers, gun-rights activists, taxpayers’ groups, and especially the tea party movement. And Hostettler’s biggest albatross in 2006 — George W. Bush — is gone. In his place is Barack Obama